focus group market research

Focus Group Market Research




A focus group provides the ideal setting from which to gather unbiased, authentic and in-depth information. However, a focus group is only a success if the moderator creates a suitable setting for directing, recording and analysing discussions in a natural and unbiased manner.  Planning, directing and recording focus groups does not create problems for researchers, but analysing information takes a great deal of time and expertise.


And yet while analysing information is the most important step in focus group research, it is also where most researchers fail to deliver. The findings of a focus group are valuable only if the researcher analyses the information in a fair and unbiased manner, which is, unfortunately, not always the case.  It is not unheard of for some researchers to filter out what they don’t want to hear, create presentations based on what they think they have heard, or in fact, not analyse the information at all.

A vast amount of information is discussed during a focus group, making it a challenge to capture all of the information generated.  It is virtually impossible to take notes accurately and direct a conversation simultaneously.  Scribbling notes takes time and hurried notes are usually incomplete, distract the moderator, fail to capture participants’ own language, and interfere with the group dynamic.   Other common recording methods are videotaping and audio recording.  However, video tape may stifle some participants because of their awareness of being recorded and is therefore not advisable for focus groups.  Consequently, audio recording of a focus group is the preferred method of information capture.

A transcript is a hard copy of a recording of a focus group and is very beneficial for the following reasons:

Benefit #1:  A transcript will provide a researcher with the opportunity to return to the discussion and analyse words and comments as they were originally said, not requiring  researchers to attempt to rely on what they thought was said.

Benefit #2: A transcript provides the researcher with much more pertinent insight into the discussion and a faster way to analyse the information than to repeatedly re-listen to the recording.    This leads to more credible conclusions.

Benefit #3: Some researchers choose not to transcribe their focus group sessions in an attempt to save cost, but by doing so they open the door wide open for people to question the credibility of their research.  A researcher can easily convince clients and others of the authenticity of findings and conclusions by referring to the transcript.

Benefit #4: Listening to a focus group discussion requires a lot of time and particular skills due to the different voices and accents, the fact that people frequently talk over each other, and the need to identify who is speaking.  Analysing information directly from an audio recording can lead to mishearing, incorrect interpretation of statements and exclusion of valuable information.  Analysing information from a transcript avoids all of the aforementioned pitfalls.

Benefit #5: It will cost less time to have the recording transcribed professionally than for a researcher to listen to the recording, make notes, or to transcribe it himself.  A professional transcriber needs four hours to transcribe one hour of audio.  Professional transcribers are able to decipher accents, distinguish words through fuzzy or crackly sound, and distinguish between homophones. Therefore, they will produce a much higher quality transcript than an unprofessional, at a much greater speed. The benefits of a transcript clearly outweigh the cost.

Benefit #6: Transcripts help significantly with analysis because they provide more information than just a recording or notes.  A transcript enables the researcher to understand statements in the context in which they were made.  A transcript allows researchers to capture participants’ comments verbatim. Then, actual verbatim comments made by focus group participants can be copied directly from the transcript and pasted into the researcher’s presentation, bringing the presentation to life and greatly enhancing the credibility of the research as the participants’ comments support the researcher’s conclusions.

Benefit #7: A high quality focus group transcript should not identify the members by name.  This ensures participant anonymity and removes the possibility of bias on the part of the analyst towards one participant or another.

The quality of a transcript is extremely important. A transcript only fulfils its purpose if its quality is superbly high.  A transcript is the exact hard copy of a recording.  If it is not the exact duplicate of the recording, then it is essentially rendered useless.  Quality refers to recording the audio exactly into text, in a reader friendly format, while adhering to the speakers’ intentions.  Therefore it is advisable to seek the services of a highly reputable transcription company, known for high quality, adding yet again to the credibility of the research.

A focus group research project can easily result in faulty conclusions if the researcher either analyses information incorrectly, or correctly analyses incorrect information.  Therefore, it is advisable that researchers record their focus group sessions and have them preserved as a transcript by a reputable transcription company.  A high quality transcript will enable a researcher to deliver an excellent service to their client and protect the integrity of the research project.



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